A number of things came together this week that inspired me to write this. Yes, this is a little long, but I care about your safety — and I hope you care about your own safety — so please read the whole thing.
We start off with yet another “high speed, low drag operator” that will train you to be the ultimate badass. Alas, the video has been pulled from YouTube, but the ENDO post summarizes it pretty well.
Then TLG recounts a muzzle direction experience. That post was inspired by this post at GunNuts. And yes, I’ve had muzzles pointed at me. First time it happened, I chewed them out pretty harshly, and just like Tim @ GunNuts tells, people don’t get it. I’ve also had it happen during my teaching at KR Training, which somewhat comes with the territory but thankfully 99.9% of the people that do it turn white afterwards and I think walk away with the sober realization of their safety violation and what could have been. So while it wasn’t a fun way to teach a lesson, if serves as a lifetime reminder to adhere to “the rules” then I’ll go with that (tho I really don’t prefer that as a teaching tool).
I also recall a good friend telling me a story about a class he took from high-profile national-level instructor. During the class the instructor was called out on his poor gun handling, and he got “big boy defensive” about things as he made excuses for his violations.
Let’s go over the rules again.
First, we have Col. Jeff Cooper’s rules (source: Jeff Cooper, Commentaries, Vol. 11 No. 4, 2003):
- All guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.
- Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. For those that insist this particular gun is unloaded, see Rule 1.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target. This is the Golden Rule. Its violation is directly responsible for about 60% of inadvertent discharges.
- Identify your target and what is behind it. Never shoot at anything you have not positively identified.
Then we have the NRA’s rules:
- Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
- Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
- Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
Why do we have these rules? To keep people safe. You know what? It’s not necessarily to keep YOU safe, but certainly for the safety of those around you since most of the time that muzzle is pointed at not-you. Do you want to hurt someone? Do you want to kill someone? Do you want to ruin the remainder of someone’s life, or deprive them of it? especially if that person is someone you love and care about? Can you handle living with the burden the rest of your life? Can you handle the lawsuits? Can you handle the bills? Can you handle being crucified by the press and the public? If you cannot handle these things, then you cannot afford to violate the rules; in fact, even if you can handle these things, you still cannot afford to violate the rules . I don’t care how high-speed-low-drag you are, I don’t care how safe you think you are (because you probably aren’t).
Yes, that means me too… I’ve violated rules, and still kick myself for it. But that’s the thing: we’re human, we will make mistakes. We must do all we can to avoid making them, but part of the way the rules work is if you follow all of them but something goes wrong be it your humanness or Murphy’s Law, then damage is still minimized. Finger on the trigger but muzzle in a safe direction? Well, it’ll be loud and likely the floor or something got damaged, but no life was lost. This is not license to violate any rules; merely a layer of protection.
So why is it so many people — check that, instructors — think it’s OK to knowingly break the rules? Ben Goldstein, the guy from the first linked-to-post, defends his rules violations:
But, to rest the point, never would there be an instance of an instructor or a shooter walking in front of a loaded firearm. Note the word “loaded”. In my sessions, we first check our own weapons, then we double buddy check (check the shooter to the left and right of you), and then I check each weapon on the line, any and all magazines, any and all backup weapons and backup mags, and then, and ONLY then, is the line considered dry. Do I break Rule number 2 of the firearm safety rules? Yes, sometimes I do. And I have been working on trying to blend absolute focus on each individual with NOT breaking Rule number 2, and it is a work in progress. Being in front of a student helps me instruct and them learn, and there are advantages and disadvantages to this method.
As Col. Cooper himself wrote: “For those that insist this particular gun is unloaded, see Rule 1.”
What are you teaching your students? That it’s OK to point guns at people (VCA’s aside)? That the rules are OK to violate at some point? At last weekend’s defensive knife class we were talking about such intensive safety protocols as used in shoothouses, simunitions training, force-on-force, and other such things. And you know what? Trying to blend all the absolute focus you want, but bad shit still happens. It is not OK to violate the rules, and it is not OK to talk about the rules then disregard them. Students will learn more from your example than your words.
These poor choices and behavior often get defended with the instructor (or their defenders) saying how the instructor asked if anyone had a problem with them violating the rules. For example, “I’m going to stand downrange while you shoot, does anyone have a problem with this?” And a typical response is that no one raises their hands, no one speaks up. As if somehow that’s justification for this behavior.
Do you know why the students aren’t speaking up?
Read this article and pay attention to: #4, our tendency to conform; #5, our herd mentality; and especially #6, that we depend upon authority figures to make decisions.
Professor Milgram interpreted the results of his sobering experiment as saying that people in stressful situations who don’t feel like they have the ability or expertise to make decisions will leave the decision-making to the group and its hierarchy, and that when they obey someone else’s orders — even orders that violate their own conscience — they no longer feel responsible for their own actions, believing they’re just a blameless tool of an authority figure.
That’s precisely what we have in a class. If you are coming to a class, you are admitting you don’t know something but wish to learn. Thus you go to someone that knows. So we immediately have a hierarchy of the instructor above the student. Plus it’s evident this instructor has some “dangerous” skills and knows how to deal with it (at least, in the eyes of the student), so thus if the expert is OK with being downrange, if the authority figure blesses this behavior, it must be OK… and I don’t want to be the asshole that speaks up and ruins it for everyone else, then gets cast out of the group, I’m nervous enough and stressed enough already, etc.. So really, that no one speaks up is not a surprise and really isn’t any sort of defense that this rules-violating behavior is acceptable.
So I write this to say to students: speak up.
If someone — especially the instructor — is being unsafe, speak up. If you don’t feel right about something, speak up. What’s the worst that can happen? If the instructor is worth their salt, they will humbly accept the correction. As well, the instructor might have to ask you to trust them and you go with what they say. Why? Well, the nature of a firearms class is going to be stressful and is going to push you outside your comfort zone. To some extent, you need this and have to go through it to help you achieve your goals. But you have to know if you feel uncomfortable just because it’s new and unknown, or because you know this isn’t right and you know it’s a violation of the rules.
You also have to look at the whole of the instructor. Are they humble? Are they working to build and earn your trust? Or are they trying to be a hot shot? Do they disregard your voice, even if it’s a dissenting one? Do they lift you up, or do they put you down? Are they more concerned with showing off their macho, or with helping you achieve your goals?
In the end, if something doesn’t feel right, you do NOT have to do it. You can sit out. You can ask if someone else can go first, or for the instructor to demonstrate, if it helps for you to see it before you do it. And in the end, if ultimately something isn’t right, you can leave the class. I cannot say how the instructor/school will handle it, if you’ll get money back, or whatever. But ultimately don’t worry about that, because your safety is more important.
If you are at a gun range and see someone breaking the rules, call them on it. Report it to the range safety officer. If worse comes to worse, just pack up and leave.
I know it won’t be easy to do this, but nothing in life worth having is easy — and your life and the lives of those in classes with you are worth it. The safety rules do not have exceptions (what part of “always” do you not understand?). As an instructor, we need to not just teach by our words, but also by our example. Our safety is more important.
Wendler 5/3/1 program, cycle 20, week 1
- Work Set – Deadlift (working max: 395#)
- 1x5x160 (warmup)
- 1x5x260 (work)
- Assistance – Deadlifts
- 5 x 6 x 225
- Assistance – Side Bends
- 3 x 20 x 45
- Foam Rolling
Is it recovery? Is this pushing me? Am I nearing a need for a reset? I don’t know.
I did the prescribed reps and felt good about it. I certainly had some left in the tank. I also felt because I put everything into just hitting the prescribed reps that I did it better (form, technique, etc.). I was reading something the other day about someone that did 5-3-1 for a long time then switched to Cube Method. What stood out in his comments were feeling really beat up from going “all out” on that last set, that it really taxes you over time, and if he did things again he’d just hit prescribed reps. When I think about variations on 5-3-1 (even by Jim himself), about other things I read from other elite powerlifters, and just feeling my own response — especially since I’m not 16-25 years old any more, that well… maybe I should just fall back to prescribed reps. I did this for a while and I didn’t feel hampered by it.
If I did it, it’d be like on 5 week, 5-6 reps striving for 5 (6 if I really felt awesome about it). On 3 week, 3-4 (striving for 3). On 5-3-1 week, 1-3 reps, striving for 3. Yeah, still try to push it, but keep it regulated. Conversely, I also wondered about doing more of a 3-5-1 approach (the powerlifting approach) and letting myself push it a bit on the 3 and 1 weeks, but take it easy on the 5 (and deload) weeks. I’ve been thinking about that for some months now, and while I can’t really switch now, maybe next cycle. And meantime, maybe just stick with prescribed for now. Or to put it another way, don’t really sweat PR’ing on any week but the 5-3-1 week, y’know? Yeah, maybe I’m paying a lot of attention to Cube right now.
Anyways…. today did suck a lot out of me. I went up for that 4th set of assistance deadlifts, grabbed the bar, then stopped. I just felt out of gas. But I stepped back, collected myself, and proceeded to bang it out, and the 5th set too. It was mental, not physical, that was in my way (tho I was honestly feeling physically drained… but I could tell I wasn’t out of gas yet).
We’ll keep on keepin’ on. Got the long weekend ahead. I’m sure I’ll be thinking.
A couple days ago I received an email from Mark @ ammoforsale.com. I will say, it was nice that it wasn’t a form email out spamming the gun blogs — he commented on my grip post. No idea if he really reads the blog or just saw the one post enough to send the email… but whatever. It shows he made a little personal effort instead of being a spam-bot.
I’m writing in hopes of putting something on your radar – we just wrapped up some videos featuring “The Greatest Caliber Ever”. (Spoiler alert – they’re all the greatest)! If you get a chance, I’d love to hear your thoughts:
Each of the videos has an easy embed code; you’re free to share them with your readers if you think the short videos are worthy and something they would enjoy.
And while they do have embed codes, I can’t embed them here. Oh well. You should click on them anyways and drive traffic to their site… which is the point, isn’t it?
I don’t often post things like this, but the videos were short, funny, and well-produced. Don’t take it too seriously.
A little humor for your day.
Wendler 5/3/1 program, cycle 20, week 1
- Work Set – Bench Press (working max: 240#)
- 2x5x45 (warmup)
- 1x5x160 (work)
- Assistance – DB Incline Press
- 5 x 10 x 40
- Assistance – DB Rows
- 2 x 25 x 45
- 100 rep work – JM Presses, BB Curls
Sometime during my warmups my left shoulder felt funny, like bad funny. Nerve? I felt weak all up and down my left arm, and things just didn’t feel right. I still managed to hit 7 reps @ 205, but it just didn’t feel right. Plus I think because of that I compensated by moving in a different plane and angles. It was rather evident when I did the inclines, so I stopped short on everything else this week because I didn’t want to risk any problems.
Haven’t done incline anything since I started lifting again a couple years ago. I had no idea what angle, what weight to use… so I put it at a 45 degree angle and tried 40′s. That wasn’t too bad, tho it’s kind awkward getting the weight into position (probably worse due to the shoulder issue). 40′s weren’t bad, I think I’ll go 45 and that’ll probably be enough for a while. Since I haven’t done inclines I need to find my right groove and do things like ensure I don’t flare my elbows, which was all to easy to want to do.
Apart from the shoulder tho (which feels much better as I write this), it felt good. I’m getting a better groove with foot placement, tuck/arch, and technique. So here’s hoping this cycle progresses well.
Chuck Rives is an Affiliate Instructor, for Mike Janich’s Martial Blade Concepts. Chuck has been a martial artist for about 30 years. Chuck lives in Amarillo, Texas and is an Emergency Manager for a Federal Government Agency. Chuck teaches knife, and defensive tactics regularly to peace officers and corrections officers.
So, Chuck knows his stuff. Chuck’s been coming to KR Training for a while to host shorter classes, and I’ve wanted to check out his classes for some time but just haven’t been able to for one reason or another. But this class I didn’t want to miss because 1. it was a full day, 2. it was also going to have Allen Elishewitz. Alas, Allen was unable to make the class, but that really didn’t detract much because Chuck ran a great class with much to teach. You may know who Michael Janich is, as he’s been a part of the TV show The Best Defense for some time now. While I’m not a huge fan of a lot of the “training” TV shows out there, I am a fan of Michael’s and what he teaches is solid. What Chuck teaches isn’t pure MBC curriculum, Chuck is an Affiliate Instructor of MBC and is highly recommended by Janich.
The knife work is founded in Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) style and concepts. Consequently, it’s logical, simple, and effective. What Chuck has put together for this 1-day workshop provides a basic foundation of simple concepts and techniques that almost anyone can use to defend themselves with a knife.
The workshop started out with a discussion of self-defense, what defensive knife work is (this isn’t dueling, it’s not Westside Story). Some talk about knives themselves in terms of construction and blades. Then a live demonstration of various knives via “Pork Man”. Watch this video:
That’s Michael Janich, and the first 3 minutes or so give his background, followed by some useful footage of actual knife attacks (close, swift, aggressive, brutal), and finally the “Pork Man” demo. What you can see is that knife attacks can be ugly, even with small/short blades. One thing that Chuck’s demo showed that the YouTube video doesn’t, is how blade shape/construction matters. Chuck had a knife that looks evil and threatening — it’s big, black, looks “tactical” and “scary”. But actual cutting ability? It was pretty poor due to blade and edge shape. Then some smaller, less threatening looking knives did far worse damage, but again it was due to superior shape and edge. There’s a lot one can glean from such a demonstration.
After Pork Man, we had discussions of targeting, stance, deployment, grip, and then angles of attack. Again, if you’re familiar with FMA, these angles of attack are familiar. I won’t give away all that Chuck teaches — you’ll do better to learn from the teacher. But if you’re a student of Kali or Arnis or Escrima, you probably already know what’s going on here. Basic blocks and attacks, all based upon the same/similar concepts. At first, it seems like you’re learning a lot, then you realize as the day goes on that you’re learning the same thing and it doesn’t seem like much, and that’s the great thing about it — it’s simple, it’s less to learn, but yet it’s effective regardless. This means when the flag flies you have less of inventory to hunt through for a response, which means a faster response. Good thing.
What Chuck taught was simple and effective, but there’s no question you cannot just take the class then forget about it. You are going to need to practice these things to get them smooth and reflexive. When practicing these, I found myself a few times with brain fade and reverting to techniques I already knew from past martial arts experience. What was soberingly evident? Chuck’s techniques strive to get you on the outside of your attacker, which is generally a safer place to be, especially when a knife is involved. So much of what I learned in the past? Works to get you inside your attacker and keep you there. Really, there’s no one right place because inside and outside can have advantages and disadvantages, reasons to want to be there and reasons to not want to be there. It was just an interesting contrast to have Chuck’s material presented, which focused on getting outside, and finding myself at times reverting to old habits which want to keep me inside.
Was there anything bad about the day? Well, it was hot, sunny, windy, which really took a lot out of you. In the later afternoon we probably should have taken it back inside, cleared the room, and continued working in there. But Chuck was good about taking breaks, cooling off, getting water. It’s good when instructors aren’t just attentive to material, but also these other realities and necessities of teaching. I do wish there was more way to apply the techniques, like some FoF scenarios. But I’m not sure logically how that could be worked out. I know in past martial arts study we’ve done things like get a red magic marker and white t-shirts, so it doesn’t hurt too much but it also shows the damage done. But that’s also probably too much material for one day (2 day course? Maybe a “Level 2″ workshop that starts with a review of this material, adds a few more things, then spends the afternoon in FoF?).
One thing I kept thinking about was my past defensive folding knife training with Insights Training. I thought Insights’ work and Chuck’s work went well together. It’s cool when you have different people with different backgrounds and different courses that wind up in essentially the same place. I don’t think one replaces the other, but they do complement. For example, both came down on about the same side of knife selection (Chuck with a Spyderco Endura, Insights with Spyderco Delica). I still like Insights’ approach of two knives, one in each pocket. I thought Insights did more to cover drawing and getting the knife into play, and discussion of that importance. But it’s interesting how Insights tended to focus more on being in the fight then getting your knife; Chuck spoke a lot about how you can get the knife ready before the fight is on. Insights seemed to have a bit of “gun as your primary” tendency, whereas Chuck acknowledged the knife may have to be your primary and how to treat it in the face of that or NPE’s. Insights focused on a few simple but different techniques. Chuck focused on a few simple but similar techniques. However, application was different. For example, Chuck addressed distance, getting outside, and getting away. Insights had a solution for the clinch and being caught in close. Both focused on targeting to disable your attacker so you can get the fight to stop and/or escape. Insights had a stance where your knife-side was back (thus your “empty hand” was forward). Chuck put your knife forward, so your empty hand wasn’t just a target. On this last point, I think Chuck’s position is more sound, either when attacking with or defending against a knife (so long as you have one too); but that’s going to be very hard for gun folk to learn since so much gun technique is about keeping your gun side away from the attacker. Anyways, I don’t think either group has a monopoly on knowledge and technique. Both present sound solutions, and I think they do far more to complement and augment each other.
Not only did I pick up on direct course material, but I took home some other things. First, I still feel good about choice of Spyderco Delica. They are fast to deploy, solid, and you just don’t have the fumble factor that other folders suffer from (e.g. due to pins; the big hole really helps with thumb deployment). They have good design, and aren’t too expensive such that if you have to lose or ditch the knife, life goes on. Still, a folder isn’t as good as a fixed-blade, and Chuck had a technique that was so simple towards carrying and deploying a folder that I’m going to experiment with it for my own carry. I also picked up on some things for my own teaching (“Tony Chin”). I liked Chuck’s style: very personable and friendly, very passionate about this material, and you can tell he really wants to take the time and care to ensure people learn and grow.
If you care about personal defense, you should care about the knife. If you choose to carry one, you ought to know how to use it. To know how to cut veggies in the kitchen is one thing, but to know how to defend yourself with it is another. But even if you don’t carry one, you’d do well to get some training in how to defend yourself against a knife. Yes, a gun can be an effective defensive tool, but you first need to get your gun out. Being able to perform a few simple movements (again, the FMA-based techniques can work for you if you have a knife in your hand, a club in your hand, or empty hands) to stave the initial attack, get to the outside, and buy you the time to get your gun out… well, there’s much to be said for such knowledge and ability.
I look forward to training with Chuck again.
On one final note, I’d like to give some love to my friend, Shawn Hatcher of Hatcher Knives. Shawn came out and was my training partner for the day. He was kind enough to fashion a trainer version of the REH out of some G10. We spent the afternoon beating each other up, overthinking together, and having a grand time. I must say, Chuck’s techniques are more directly suited for a forward-type grip, so I did use my Delica Trainers for much of the class. But I did use the REH trainer when I could to see how it would convey. Because the REH is designed with a reverse edge and also to typically be held in a reverse-grip, I found myself thinking WAY too much about technique application. But on the same token, most of Chuck’s techniques became even more ugly due to the hooking motion. Yes, some techniques wound up just striking the blunt back-edge of the REH, but as you followed through with the technique… yeah, fun stuff. Shawn took the REH home with him — going to add some “version 1.2″ refinements. The joys of custom knives! Shawn’s really evolving as a knife-maker, and if you’re in the market, you should give him a try.
Catching up, clearing things out of my queue.
I know the gun debate isn’t the hottest thing on 24/7 “reality news TV”, but it’s still around and won’t go away any time soon.
I wanted to share a few things worth reading.
First, a gentleman named Rick has a series of “thoughts on the current gun debate”. Last I checked he had only 4, but as of this writing he’s up to 9.
- Part 1
- Part 2
- Part 3
- Part 4
- Part 4A – Correcting some stuff about comparing US and UK murder rates.
- Part 6 (I guess he considered 4A to be 5)
- Part 7
- Part 8
- Part 9
It does appear part 9 is the end, since it says “summary”. I admit I have not read all of this because I’ve just been swamped. But what I did read seemed like a deep investigation of the topic, looking at data, at arguments, at debate. If nothing else, it seems like a meaningful read.
Second, a blogger named Kontra writes a letter, “Dear Gun Control Democrats: 6 Ways to Make a Better Argument“.
I write this letter as someone who is politically far left of center. You and I have a lot in common, though you may not want to admit it by the end of this article. I think it’s time we had a talk…. But I’ll be honest with you: I watched the Senate votes live on Wednesday, and when these gun-related bills were defeated, I literally celebrated. Obviously, you and I have a lot in common, but plenty to differ on. And that’s kind of what I want to talk to you about.
This isn’t about gun-control per se, but more about public relations and communication. It’s about why the “Democrat gun-control agenda” failed — and will continue to do so — because you are sending the wrong message, have the wrong marketing. Really, it’s a good read regardless of topic or “side”, because it’s really about communication… and why yours has failed and no one believes you any more.
Hopefully you have a little more time on your hands than I do. Read on.
So I learned a few things.
Wendler 5/3/1 program, cycle 20, week 1
- Work Set – Squat (working max: 305#)
- 2x5x45 (warmup)
- 1x5x200 (work)
- Assistance – Pause Squat
- 3 x 5 x 200
- Assistance – Pulldown Abs (kneeling)
- 4 x 25 x 110
Since I’m doing the same weights as last cycle, the intent is to get rep PR’s this cycle. On paper, I’m not off to a good start because I got 6 @ 265 last cycle. But this was an intentional choice. Yesterday I attended a workshop that had us outside in 90º+ heat, windy, and lots of physical activity. And it wasn’t just moving around, but a lot of hitting each other with fists, shoulders, and training implements. So my right side, especially my quads and adductors, are bruised and beaten. Plus, I’m just a little drained from yesterday. I actually didn’t want to go to the gym, and just wasn’t feeling it, so I told myself to get prescribed reps and call it good. When I got under the bar for the last work set, I actually was very fired up and wanted to keep going but I reminded myself to stick with the plan. It’s more important I build up to get that rep PR on the 5/3/1 week, not this week. Let myself recover.
And I must admit, I wanted to save a little for the pause squats, since I didn’t know what that would hold for me. I’m following Paul Carter’s suggestions, which essentially takes the first work-set weight and does it for 5 reps on 5 week, 5 on 3 week, and 3 on 5/3/1 week. How long did I pause? About 2-3 seconds. I didn’t really measure, but I made sure I got down and it was very evident there was a pause. And it’s here I learned a few things.
I’ve been focusing a lot on upper back tightness. It was evident I was NOT tight because I’d keep cuing myself and tightening back up –which shows how tight I was not! I worked on this throughout the squats, but something hit me during paused squats because there it was holding the tightness throughout the movement and really driving the head back into the bar when coming out of the hole.
It was about arm spacing.
I’ve tried to bring my hands in closer, but my elbows don’t like it. So I’m a little further out, it’s comfortable, but I realized that in fact is what’s keeping me from getting tight. No, I don’t think tightness should come from squishing your hands as close to your ears as possible, because that’s not necessarily tight; that’s just squished. Instead, I realized that when I get my lats tight, my traps tight, and everything tight, there’s just a natural place my hands fall. It’s about… oh… 1-2 fingers inside the rings (for me). Something about there. And when my hands are in that position, yes it bugs my elbows a bit, but boy I can sure keep everything tight. Pushing my hands wider, I just cannot be tight due to the mechanics of things.
I didn’t realize this until the last couple sets of the pause squats, but yeah… light bulb.
Ab work… standing pulldown abs kills my elbows even more. So I went back to kneeling, but it just doesn’t stress my abs as much as the standing ones. I think I’ll just alternate depending how my elbows feel. Who knows, might even combine it some time to get the most for my abs and the least for my elbows.
Guns. Lifting weight. Lead. Iron. Both heavy metals. Both topics for me, but rarely do I mix them.
Ed, this post is for you.
After last Saturday’s class, Ed and I (we carpooled) stopped at the Bastrop Buc-Ee’s for gas and some food. Ed asked me about ways to improve his grip.
Not really going to work for Ed. But truly, that’s what has helped me so much in my grip. When you’re holding 365# in the air, you better have a good grip. Other things have helped too, like hammer curls, and just ensuring I grip/squeeze when I’m lifting and don’t just let my fingertips barely hold on.
What it comes down to is: if you want to get good at something, you have to do that something. If you want to get good at boxing, you have to get in the ring and box. Certainly tho, you can do boxing-like things to help your boxing. For example, jog/run medium distances to bring up your endurance so you can go 12 rounds, but sprints won’t contribute a whole lot to your ring performance. So if you want to get better at gripping, you have to grip things.
That said, grip isn’t a simple thing. There’s crushing, there’s pinching, and there’s holding (supporting). There are fingers, there’s your thumb, there’s forearm muscles that work in various directions. There’s really a lot in here, but to keep the discussion focused, I’m going to look at gripping a handgun and possible ways to improve your grip on your gun to help with recoil management.
No, I’m not an expert here, nor is this any sort of training program. I’m just thinking aloud based on my knowledge and experience.
When you’re gripping a gun, you’re doing so because you need to shoot it. When you shoot it, there will be recoil. You cannot stop recoil, only manage it. There are numerous ways to help manage that recoil, and I’m going to focus on one: your grip.
I’ve read many ways about how to grip the gun. There’s the Weaver Stance with it’s push-pull dynamics. Brian Enos talks about squeezing the grip itself but with neutral “directional forces” (if you will) so the gun isn’t being pushed or pulled in any direction. Tom Givens said something to the effect of the strong/trigger hand gives a “front-to-back” squeeze and the weak/support hand gives a “left-to-right” squeeze, thus together it’s a strong “box” of inward pressure. Massad Ayoob refers to the “crush grip” where you squeeze so hard until you start shaking then back off just to the point where you stop shaking. When we teach out at KR Training, Karl Rehn came up with a nice analogy of “Homer choking Bart“.
While everyone has a different way of approaching it, it really boils down to you need to grip and grip hard.
Trouble is, when you grip hard, you can’t grip for long. Muscles will get tired, and when they get tired, your grip is going to loosen. Given this, what it tells me is two things need to be focused on for improving grip for shooting handguns: 1. strength, 2. endurance.
Note, I’m setting aside other grip issues and problems. For example, if your hands get sweaty, that’s going to make it harder to grip things. You’ll have to find some other way to manage that, but one way? Grip even harder. Point being, there are other problems one can have with their grip, like sweaty hands or gun fit issues, and those are outside the scope of this writing.
Ed mentioned to me he was working on it by taking a ball and squeezing it. I think that’s a good approach, but after a while it won’t be enough. The problem? After a while, it’s no challenge to you. You can squeeze it to death, you can hold it until you stop from boredom before exhaustion. Continuing to squeeze that ball won’t allow you to progress. Ed knew I had previously mentioned the Captains of Crush grippers, but honestly? They feel like more of an assistance exercise than a primary. That is, if you want to get good at gripping a handgun, you need to grip a handgun or what most closely resembles that (since “working out” with a gun has other safety and social issues).
The CoC grippers are very good at developing crush strength. But I’ve found it’s within a particular range of motion. It’s a… clamp for lack of a better term. Using these grippers doesn’t involve my whole hand, my whole forearm, my fingertips, my pinky — because the pinky is so heavily involved in recoil management. So, I look at grippers as more “assistance work” than main work. Nevertheless, I see much benefit in using equipment like this. First, if you can close a CoC #1 or #2 gripper? you’ve got a decently strong grip. If you can close a #3? I think you’ll be find holding on to a handgun. If you can work these, you’re still going to have a very strong crush grip, which is important. Second, these CoC grippers offer progression. Frankly, this is key.
The problem with Ed’s ball is that once he’s mastered it, what do you do next? I’m sure you can find “stronger” balls to work with, but what sort of progression is there? can you measure it? can you be certain of it? With a set like the CoC’s, you can know precisely where you are, what you’re doing, and where to go next. If the “S” is easy, move to “T”, when the “T” is easy, move to “1″ and so on. You can know what you’re doing, and you can certainly progress. Because if you want to get stronger, you have to keep working with greater resistance.
But don’t think with the grippers that you have to work on crushing the #3. How about getting the “S” model and holding it closed for 30 seconds? That’s the second part: endurance. When you shoot, you don’t draw and shoot 1, you’ll be shooting more. Take a class and how much are you shooting? If you’re shooting an IPSC or IDPA match, how long does the stage last? No, you don’t need to hold on for 5 minutes, but 10 seconds isn’t uncommon, maybe up to 20. In fact, you might consider it broken apart. Maybe you shoot for 5 seconds, run to the next position, shoot for another 5 seconds, run to the next, another 5, and so on. Maybe you could crush the gripper all the way closed, hold for 5, release for 2-3 seconds, crush and hold for 5, etc.. That is, work to replicate the conditions you’ll be shooting under. If that gets easy, move up to the next gripper.
There are also these things called the IronMind EGG. There’s lots of similar products. But here the point remains that there’s different models for different levels of resistance, and it provides more of an overall crush feel in your hands — fingertips are going to get involved. Crush it — Homer choking Bart — and hold for 20 seconds. Do this over and over. Build up the crush strength, build up the endurance. I think products like these can provide a more “handgun-grip-like” setup and thus could work better as a “primary exercise”. There are also foam grippers on the market that are more rectangular in shape, perhaps with finger grooves. That’s very similar in size and shape to a double-stack striker-fired handgun’s grip — grip it like the gun.
(Note: I’m not a shill for IronMind or CoC… just like their CoC grippers; never held their EGG product).
I will say tho, I think the biggest part of improving your grip while shooting is the mental aspect.
You just have to make the mental effort to focus on your grip.
When you are working with grippers or crush balls, you have to grip hard… then grip harder…. and harder. You are going to get tired. Muscles are going to want to relax. You must tell yourself to grip harder. You must make your muscles grip harder. It’s a mental thing. We will lose our grip without even thinking about it, so if instead you can train yourself to progressively grip harder, the hopeful end result is a maintenance of a steady grip, not a slowly loosening one. This will require you to be mentally engaged in the grip work, not just mindless crushing.
Next time you go to the range? Don’t work on drills, don’t work on your accuracy, or your speed. Work on your grip. Pick some drills like a Bill Drill. Don’t worry about the target or your speed or whatever so much (of course, do be safe, do ensure all rounds impact the backstop, etc.), just focus on your grip and crushing the hell out of the gun the whole time. Experiment with different grip strengths: maybe you crush the unholy hell out of it, maybe you back off 10%. What if you crush like hell with your support hand but have just a “good grip” with your strong/trigger hand. Does how hard you grip with your trigger-hand affect the movement of your trigger finger? Make a whole range session out of playing with your grip and focusing solely upon that topic.
When you dry fire? Do not forget to have Homer choke Bart. It’s very easy to slack on your grip when you dry fire because you know there’s no recoil. I catch myself doing this all the time. You have to make the mental effort to remind yourself to grip hard when dry firing.
After you learn a few things at the range, reassess the grip workout you do. Maybe you found “this much grip” worked, so crush the ball with that much force and hold it. Maybe you need a stronger ball or gripper. It’s going to be an iterative process.
Finally, don’t expect grip improvements overnight. Actually, you may well improve some after the “focus on your grip” range session, because now you’ve thought about it, became aware of it, and will be more cognizant of your grip when shooting. On the same token, don’t be surprised if you regress! I found as my grip strength improved, I wasn’t necessarily aware of it. That is, in my mind I was still gripping the same as I always had, but on an absolute scale I was gripping harder. Ever watch what happens to your front sight when you change how much you crush grip the gun? the sight moves. I had to readjust some other things to bring things back in line. Don’t use the changes as an excuse to back off on your grip: it’s just a way to help you find other weak points to make stronger.
And yes, you have to make a routine of this. Work on it every day. Doesn’t have to be much, maybe 10 minutes a day. Make it a constant thing. Keep a log of your work so you can see your progress.
It also don’t have to be true “exercising” of your grip. When you hold onto something, anything during your day, don’t just weakly hold it or let it roll to the end of your fingertips. Grip it. Hold it. Own it. When you feel your grip loosening, tighten up. When you feel your muscles getting tired, hang on for another 15 seconds. Again, change your mental approach to grip.
The better we can manage recoil, the better we can shoot. You don’t need awesome grip strength to defend yourself, but the more you can grip, the better you’ll be able to rack the slide, shoot longer and faster strings, and manage through classes and practice. It’s more useful to be strong than weak, so hopefully the above has given you a few ideas about how you can make your grip stronger. It won’t happen overnight, but persistence will pay off.
For those having a hissy-fit over Obama’s use of a Marine-held umbrella yesterday, I have one question.
Why is it a problem for the Commander-in-Chief to tell (order?) a Marine to hold an umbrella over his and the Turkish Prime Minister’s head? Because it breaks Marine protocol regarding umbrellas?
Then why was this Marine’s breaking of same protocol lauded, when he broke protocol on his own volition to hold an umbrella over a man to shade him?
Both are instances of breaking the very same protocol, are they not?
Maybe they aren’t. I wasn’t in the Marines, so there may be something I’m missing here.
Look, I don’t like nor respect Obama. Yeah, I think the way he handled the umbrella thing was kinda stupid, because it’s that typical attempt for Obama to try to be cool, but just comes off awkward and unfunny and arrogant. But whatever. Someone didn’t plan for the rain, someone didn’t have a tent already set up, and like any good host you take care of your guest so it makes sense to offer the Turkish Prime Minister an umbrella. And yes, the Marine had to use his right hand because otherwise it would have been more awkward and wrong to place the Marine in the middle of the picture between the two Heads of State.
Why is this even an issue? Don’t we have more important things to call Obama on? Fast & Furious? Benghazi? Spying on the Associated Press? IRS screenings? You get mad with the press or the politicians distract from real issues. Isn’t that what you’re doing by making something out of an umbrella?
Can we stop with the double-standards?
Can we focus on things that actually matter, please?